I sit at her bedside, watching her beautiful face as she whispers her “big secret” to me: “I have an angel.” Her eyes open wide, expecting a reaction from me. “He brings me pajamas!” She leans her head back on the pillow and laughs.
Her laughter is contagious. Her angel brings her pajamas?
Five months into treatment for a brain tumor, my 7-year-old friend, Tara, has been relegated to bed rest in the hospital. Her little body is fighting the illness. The treatment seems to be working well, but it prompts seizures that need monitoring. The long stays at the hospital are difficult for her. She misses her dog, Benjie, and wants to play with her dolls. The illness was a surprise. Tara’s mother, Beverly, lives between work and hospital. It’s just the two of them. I wonder how they make it. Everything Beverly earns goes toward hospital bills and medication.
I listen to Tara tell me more about the pajamas. There are some with dogs and happy faces, and they can all be worn at the hospital even when she has an IV! Who is this angel?
I ask how she knows it’s an angel, and her face gets serious. She tells me to lean in close so she can whisper the answer. She has felt the angel place the pajamas next to her. One time she opened her eyes and could see the angel wearing white!
I sit with Tara for a few hours until she falls asleep. I wait in the room for her mother to arrive and take my place next to her daughter. I linger at the door for a moment watching them. I know you have angels watching you right now.
At the nurses’ station I visit with my good friend Tiffaney. She is part of the pediatric nurses’ team at the hospital. I ask her if she has heard of Tara’s angel. She smiles but says nothing. I must be the only one who doesn’t know about the angel!
All of a sudden a code goes off. One of the children in the oncology ward is in distress. I watch the nurses and the doctor run down the hall to a familiar room. It’s Tara. She’s having another seizure.
As the doctors help Tara, I stand in a corner holding Beverly. She sobs as she watches the commotion. All I can do is pray. When the code is shut down, a nurse stays by Tara’s bedside, monitoring her recovery. On the other side of the bed is Beverly, quietly speaking to her daughter. As quickly as the commotion began, the silence around us has returned. I don’t want to go home tonight. I will stay here with them. So I do.
I look at the clock. It’s 3:05 a.m. I fell asleep. I blink my eyes quickly to make sure I am awake. There is the angel! I watch as the angel tucks the blankets around Tara’s feet and gently lifts the little hands so that they will rest on top of a pink bundle. Pink pajamas. Then the angel quietly walks to the sofa, takes out a white envelope from a lab coat, and leaves it next to Beverly’s purse. I know this angel. I watch as the angel motions for me to keep quiet. As the angel leaves, a feeling of warmth and happiness enters the room. As I return to my sleep I wonder: What creates the urge in any of us to help those around us?
Four hours later I wake up to the sound of Tara’s resilient soft voice asking her mother what time the angel came by. I slip out of the room. I have to head home.
In the parking lot I see Tara’s angel, Tiffaney. She waves goodbye at me. I don’t have to ask. She knows. From across the parking lot she says: “One day I heard her praying for pajamas! The Holy Spirit nudged me to understand that was a prayer I could answer. Oh, and the envelope? That’s for Mom’s prayers. Have a good day, Chaplain!”
Dixil Rodríguez, a college professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas. This article was published November 10, 2011.